Data and statistics

Drug dependence is characterized as a chronic disease with many relapses. Substitution maintenance therapy with methadone or buprenorphine improves the health and social performance of opioid-dependent people and decreases the use of illicit drugs and the crime rate. Statistics show that investment in prevention pays off well: every dollar invested in drug treatment saves seven dollars in health and social costs.

Facts and figures for the WHO European Region

  • Most of the deaths among drug users are due to HIV, overdose, suicide and trauma.
  • In the European Region, illicit drug use was responsible for 2.4 million life-years lost due to disability and mortality in 2004. Illicit drug use thus ranks as the ninth most important cause of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost.
  • In eastern Europe, 70–90% of all people acquiring HIV infection are people who inject drugs and, in the European Region as a whole, injecting drug use leads to most new cases of hepatitis C.
  • In 2004, 45 000 deaths due to illicit drugs were recorded in the European Region and 2.4 million DALYs were lost because of disability and mortality.

On a global scale

The number of opioid users in the world rose from 11 million to 16 million from 2000 to 2004, mainly because of increased use outside Europe.

  • Global estimates suggest that 245 000 deaths are attributable to illicit drugs each year (2004).
  • Globally, 13 million DALYs are lost yearly due to disability and mortality attributed to illicit drug use.
  • At least 15.3 million people have drug use disorders.
  • Injecting drug use is reported in 136 countries, of which 93 report HIV infection among people who inject drugs.